7 Query/Agent Myths I Can Officially Bust

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Since it is functionally impossible for me to concentrate at the moment, I thought I might do a little post on "Those Things" we're all told when we get ready to query (or, even from the time we decide to write an actual book). These are those "known facts" facts that somehow even people who know nothing about writing a book (other than they're fairly certain words are involved) will rattle off like a Pavlovian bark the instant someone mentions hoping to make a go of writing.

#1 - Only those with connections can hope to get an agent's attention. The rest of us are out of luck.

I live on the backside of beyond in a town no one has heard of (unless you're a fan of obscure movie facts and know what mid-80's film was shot here that I might have been an extra in while wearing footie PJ's and toting a pillow...) I have NO contacts. Until four years ago, I had NO internet access. I'd tried, once, to get an email account using a public computer at the library in slightly less minuscule town where I used to live. (If you watch Lifetime movies of the week, that town you will have heard of.) I started from scratch, armed only with Google.

#2 - Agents don't actually read anything they're sent; they just hit auto-reject. (Assuming they can be bothered to reply at all.)

They read. Some skim; some devour, but they definitely read. I've gotten personalized rejections that were obvious cut and paste jobs (not complaining), and those that were a few paragraphs of what the agent in question did and didn't think worked. The first agent who offered representation sent me pages of notes and suggestions on plot elements and pacing; her clients, (whom I may or may not be forum stalking at AW) say she's even more devoted to the people she reps. So yeah, agents read.

#3 - No agent wants to take a risk on a new writer

All writers are new at some point, which means that every one of their agents took a risk on them. I haven't had a single response with the words "Not interested in writers not already published.

#4 - If you don't have a million followers / Twitter friends / people who like you, you can forget catching an agent's attention. (Likewise: If you haven't self-published and sold 100K copies, then no one likes you.)

*looks at follower count*
*falls in floor laughing*

Unless Blogger's hiding a few zeroes from the total, I have around 200 followers as of this post. I can't even say for certain they all like me. :-P

#5 - Never use a pen name.


I'm fairly sure I've mentioned this, but "Josin" is a modified nick name, and not my legal name. It came from my teenage dream of being a screenwriter and having people tell me that obviously female names could make things a harder sell. My legal name is that pesky "L" in the middle of the URL up there. What little on-line presence I have has been done under my pen name, so it would be silly for me not to include it.

#6 - Agents all have some kind of God-complex and like to dash writers' dreams

When I sent out emails yesterday to inform those agents still considering my MS, every responder that didn't say they were bumping the MS up in their reading queue to see if it was something they'd like to consider offered congratulations and a very polite bow out. Some of those responses were more excited that the read requests themselves.

One agent in particular asked who the offering agent was. When I told her, she answered back again - relieved - because she had wanted to make sure the agent wasn't a scam artist. (Quick turnaround on a read can be a red flag.) She said, had the agent been one of the bad ones, she'd have swooped in, but felt better bowing out knowing that the agent was legit and I'd be okay.

Agents love books, so by extension, they love the people who write books. They really do try to help as many as possible.

#7 - There are no magic words to make an agent read your MS.

*places tongue firmly in cheek*

"I have an offer of representation" seems to work pretty well, to me :-P

14 Chiming In:

Kayeleen Hamblin said...

I'm on pins and needles to see who finally snaps you up!

Anonymous said...


Congrats on the offer! I wish all the best for you in your writing.
And thanks for this post. Certainly helped THIS writer, especially #5.
Not my real name, but a take on my youngest son's. And it SOUNDS cooler than my real name. Always wondered why that silly "rule" existed anyway.
Again, congrats and all the best.

Terry Towery said...

Based on my stalking of your Twitter feed, I'm going to guess it's either Suzy Townsend or Janet Reid.

(Bows) Thank you, thank you. I will be here all week. ;)

Robyn Lucas said...

Congratulations! So exciting to hear. Is it for Premeditated? Your query was amazing.

Sarah said...

Bwahahaha! Yep, if you've really got an offer, those are pretty effective words. I agree--those myths are myths. When I got offers of rep, my agent could't even find me online. I was nobody, had only been writing for a year, and had no online presence whatsoever. Congrats again!

Noree Cosper said...

Congrats on the offer. I'm interested to see what happens!

Michelle said...

Congrats! Enjoy the journey.

Lydia Sharp said...

This is a great post. And congrats!

Matthew MacNish said...

Hah! Existing offers do tend to speed things up a bit.

And man. I can't believe I wasn't following you on Twitter, OR friends with you on Facebook. I know I don't make it by your blog often enough, but you're still one of my very faves!

Lisa Aldin said...

Great post! I had no idea your name was a pen name! I've been playing around with that idea. You busted that myth for me!

Anonymous said...

Great post! And congrats! Have fun with the next phase of your work.

Kimberly said...

Good to know info. Can't wait to hear the official news. I'm so excited for you.

S.H. said...

Awesome post and CONGRATS!!!! I can't wait to see the official announcement! :D

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Wow, how exciting! Congratulations. You'll have to come to Paris at the American Library and plan a book signing. I'll be the first in line.

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